Ten brave junior sailors ventured out into the breezy and overcast conditions at Summerleaze Lake for Maidenhead Sailing Club's first Optimist Open since 2008. All ten, aged between eight and twelve (some experiencing their very first competitive Open) sailed admirably, showing skill and determination to get round the course in freshening south easterly winds.
Photos courtesy of Jenni Heward-Craig and Nick Garrod
The first race started reluctantly. Some sailors showed their inexperience of coming to the start line by not being near it when the hooter went, but they quickly got the idea. The field soon settled. Two sailors – James Barrett (Burghfield SC) and Leo Wilkinson (MSC) - raced ahead of the rest of the fleet, and by the middle of the race had lapped the tailenders. Leo crossed the line comfortably ahead of second-placed James, with Thomas Knight (MSC) third. The biggest battle was between fourth and fifth, with Georgia McAdam (MSC) and Joe Stimson (MSC) changing places constantly to the finish line, where Georgia just crossed ahead of Joe to take the higher place.
The second race saw the course changed, with the two furthest marker buoys moved in to make the reach shorter. The wind became more easterly, still fresh, helping make a tight start. Again, Leo and James lead, very closely followed by Thomas and Georgia. The second lap tactical battle between the two leaders was won by Leo as he cut inside James and went round the first mark just ahead. By mid-race, he had opened up a lead that James was unable to haul in. Behind them, four boats tussled for third – Joe, Georgia, Thomas, and John Getley (MSC). Leo finished first, James second, and in a burst of speed in the run up to the last mark, Joe took third place from Thomas.
With two boats retiring, the field for the third race was down to eight. James crossed the start line first, with much of the fleet bunched close in around him. With his first place in the Open assured, Leo started well behind the fleet, preferring to relax and enjoy the sailing. At the first mark, the fleet was still very tight, with James just ahead of the pack. There was much tactical sailing, with sailors using the starboard rule well, and going tight into the marks. With the sky becoming more overcast, and the young sailors visibly tiring (not to mention the race crew!), the race was shortened to three laps. James took his first first, while Leo had raced up the field to take second from Thomas, third.
Leo took the honours as MSC's Optimist Open 2015 champion, with his two firsts. Only one point behind, James came second, while Thomas was third. And, as one parent noted, everyone finished in the top ten. An achievement many adults would envy!